Hop aboard the Budget Train! Learn About the Legislature's Annual Deliberation Process.
In the coming months, the Legislature will begin deliberating the FY23 State Budget. My office has put together an informational presentation on the budget process, available for download below. I am hopeful that this will illuminate how the budget is put together and will inform your own advocacy on the issues and budget items that are important to you and your community.
The fiscal year begins on July 1st, meaning that the budget for that year should be finalized and signed by the Governor by then. The legislature starts its process months before in order to give Representatives and Senators the opportunity to determine and advocate for their communities.
The Governor files his budget in January. This year, Governor Baker filed a $36 billion budget. That may seem like a lot, but it divides up quickly after operational costs are taken into account for items such as the schools, courts, and health insurance.
The Joint Committee on Ways & Means holds several hearings to solicit input from stakeholders, including state agency heads from the executive branch, as well as advocacy groups and individual citizens. The hearings are grouped by areas of interest (healthcare, education, economic development, etc…). At the same time, Senators and Representatives are meeting with local leaders and determining their district's own budget priorities.
The House and Senate process is overall very similar, though their timelines differ slightly. It is important to note that all financial deliberations begin in the House.
Both the House and Senate put together their own budget and release it to their members → Membership files amendments on their respective versions based on their own priorities (described below) → The House debates the budget with amendments in April before sending it to the Senate in May → Once both legislative branches have debated their version of the budget, a selected Conference Committee made up of members and leadership of both branches comes together to negotiate a final bill to send to the Governor’s Desk for approval or veto.
AMENDMENT PROCESS Once the Ways & Means Committees release their version of the bill, each Senator and Representative will review the bill and put together a list of amendments they would like to include based on each of their district’s needs. This is the most intensive and collaborative aspect of the budget. Last year, the House filed 1158 amendments and the Senate filed 923! Not all are included in the final language of the bill, but all are deliberated.
TYPES OF AMENDMENTS: There are a few types of amendments that are important to know for when you reach
out to your elected official.
FUNDING RELATED: Funding requests usually come in the form of local earmarks, which are local requests targeted to a specific organization or municipality.
STATEWIDE OR REGIONAL REQUESTS: Often used to request increase in funding for an existing budget item or allocate money to a statewide priority.
LANGUAGE CHANGES: Language Changes do not change the bottom line spending, but may add a new stipulation or clarification to the use of specific funds.
OUTSIDE SECTIONS: Outside sections is any language included that is not budgetary, typically treated like normal bills. These sections do not allocate funding, but create permanent change in the law.
ADVOCATING DURING THE BUDGET TIMELINE
Think about what issues matter to you, either at home or state-wide, and make your voice heard. Knowing where the Legislature is in the budget process will help immensely with focusing your advocacy efforts. It is a long and oftentimes confusing process, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to your elected official if you have questions about where things stand. Remember, there are a lot of competing interests when it comes to the budget and compromise is necessary for a budget to accurately reflect everyone’s best interests, but our asks are heavily influenced by what we hear from our constituents and what you tell us your communities need.